Ornamental Peppers bring a POP of Color to Your Garden
Written by Mark Dwyer
Landscape Prescriptions by MD
Increasingly colorful fruits over the season catch the eye as does colorful foliage on many ornamental selections. Ornamental pepper varieties are those that are bred for their showy fruit and foliage, not for their taste or culinary use. Ornamental pepper selections should be enjoyed by the eye, not the tongue! Award-winning ornamental peppers from All-America Selections have the merits of very conspicuous, colorful, and heavy ornamental fruiting with some selections featuring rich, deep, near-black foliage coloration. The proven garden performance also comes hand in hand with any All-America Selections winner!
Ornamental peppers have many months of interest, from the time of flowering, through the fruiting process which includes transitions in the coloration of the peppers as they ripen. These fruits are diverse in shape and size, with compact plants typically exhibiting heavy fruiting on the ends of dense branching, giving the protruding fruits more visual impact. All peppers need full sun and love the heat. These plants will all begin to hit their stride with daytime temperatures between 70-80 degrees F and nighttime temperatures between 55-65 degrees F. Ornamental peppers need excellent drainage, while tolerant of some drought, evenly moist soil is recommended. The application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer is helpful as well.
Here are some tips for growing and using AAS Winning ornamental peppers!
1. If growing any of these selections from seed (readily available!), start seeds eight weeks before you plan on planting them outside. Follow best practices for providing heat and light for their germination and early growth.
2. When using ornamental peppers in a container composition, be sure to pair them with plants that require the same lighting, heat, and drainage. Good neighbors will thrive together!
3. Consider the value of the dark, near-black foliage of four of the AAS selections (listed below) as the rich coloration adds depth and richness to any composition, acts as a wonderful backdrop for the fruits and is excellent in combinations with lighter colors of foliage and/or flower.
4. These AAS ornamental peppers are effective as accent plants and focal points, but consider their potential in larger groupings and mass plantings as well.
5. Don’t forget ornamental peppers when creating fall containers or borders, they add great color!
Look for these AAS Winners for your garden…
This bushy and extremely popular variety features foliage that turns near black in the heat of summer. This versatile, upright selection (18-24”) is smothered in glossy, “pearl-like” black peppers that ripen to a deep red late in the season. This selection is excellent in the container and en masse! Limitless combinations abound with ‘Black Pearl’.
Extremely heat and drought tolerant, ‘Black Olive’ has foliage that transitions to black by mid-summer with heavy pepper production (slightly tapered fruits, starting black and turning red) along the stems and protruding from the bushy foliage. Reaching 18-20”, this variety is also touted for humidity tolerance.
Featuring a consistent plant habit and compact form at 10-12”, ‘Black Hawk’ exhibits dark foliage (near black in summer) with very early fruiting (weeks before others). Slightly conical fruits transition from glossy black to red and this selection shrugs off heat and humidity. This is an excellent selection as a bedding plant and container component.
Excellent in mass plantings, as an accent or in containers, this compact (10-12”) variety has the dual features of black foliage and heavy fruit set with lots of shiny black, rounded fruits (marble-sized) aging to red late in the summer. Uniform and consistent, Onyx Red™ has a long and successful future ahead!
This family-friendly variety is extremely ornamental and has almost no heat (hence safe for a children’s garden). Excellent in containers and as a bedding component, this compact (10-12”) and ‘Chilly Chili’ features dense, upright fruiting throughout the summer that will offer a preponderance of yellow, orange, and red, non-pungent fruits.
Well branched and dense, this very compact variety (6-8”) features upright, tapered fruits that run the gamut of soft lavender, yellow, cream, orange, and red (looking like a range of Easter egg colors!). Tolerant of heat, humidity, and drought, ‘NuMex Easter’ is reliable, impactful, and very popular.
These pepper plants are ornamental and have not been trialed by AAS as an edible plant.
“This post is provided as an education/inspirational service of All-America Selections. Please credit and link to All-America Selections when using all or parts of this article.”